LEWISTON — Andrew Wyeth’s only granddaughter painted a colorful, humorous and fascinating insider’s picture of the famous artist in an illustrated lecture at the Great Falls Forum on Friday.

“I am so proud to be this man’s granddaughter,” Victoria Wyeth told an audience of more than 100 people in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library. Her presentation was rich in unexpected detail as she showed dozens of Wyeth paintings and drawings on the hall’s large screen.

She emphasized two short statements Wyeth made: “Art has no rules” and “I paint my life.”

Drawing on personal memories, she contrasted Andrew Wyeth’s proper public persona with his fun-loving and family-oriented private side.

Victoria Wyeth, a 2001 graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, is a gifted photographer and she used many of her own images to capture the artist’s unique viewpoint in some of his work, and his inclusion of nearly every family member in his paintings.

There was his son, Jamie, who would become an acclaimed contemporary realist, painted as a youngster wearing a coonskin hat. There was his wife, Betsy, shown in several paintings as well as “stand-in” for some of the people in Wyeth’s most important pieces.

Victoria was painted several times by her grandfather, and she pointed out in those pictures that she always wore a necklace with a bell when he painted her.

Wyeth, who lectures throughout the United States and abroad, is in Lewiston under the auspices of Bates College. She has taken her talk to several public schools and youth organizations in the Twin Cities this month. She had high praise for the keen perception of local young people from fourth grade up as she showed them a variety of Wyeth pictures.

Wyeth’s granddaughter took the audience back to the earliest artistic attempts by the man she often called “Andy.” She showed some of his childhood art, and noted the remarkable skill and maturity that developed from the age of 6 to 10, when light and shadow were skillfully incorporated, and about age 13 when he was doing some remarkable drawings.

Wyeth’s methods and materials also were discussed. She said her grandfather painted in oils for a while, but his use of dry-brush watercolor and egg tempera resulted in his most important work. She said his many pencil drawings were done with a simple No. 2 pencil.

Egg tempera, his favorite medium, allowed exquisite detail in paintings, but completion of paintings often took several months. She drew attention to delicate blades of grass and strands of hair, as well as numerous whimsical or easily overlooked details in Wyeth’s work.

The artist’s granddaughter commented that as a member of such a distinguished artistic family, and through her years of art study and lecturing, she has come to notice and appreciate the tiniest things in the paintings. She pointed out repetitions of a line of color or a shade of pink on lips or little flowers on a hat ribbon.

Several specific periods of Wyeth’s work came up for special notice. Victoria Wyeth commented on her grandfather’s relationship over several years with Christina and Alvaro Olson, a brother and sister of Cushing, where he painted the house and the Olsons many times. She disputed often publicized reasons for Christina’s inability to walk. She said the cause was not fully known, but it was not polio.

Other significant phases of Wyeth’s work covered in the lecture were his paintings of Helga Testorf, Siri Erickson, Anna and Karl Kuerner and Walt Anderson, subject of “Night Hauling.”

Darby Ray, director of the Harwood Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College, introduced Wyeth at Friday’s program. Bates College and the Sun Journal are sponsors, with Lewiston Public Library, of the Great Falls Forum lecture series.


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